Polling underway for 68-seat HP Assembly

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Polling is underway in Himachal Pradesh on Saturday starting 8 am to decide the fate of 412 candidates in a single phase election to the 68-seat Vidhan Sabha, the Election Commission said.

Chief Electoral Officer Manish Garg said voting was underway at 7,881 polling stations. A mock polling exercise began half an hour before polling at 7.30 am to test EVMs in presence of both agents of all parties, he added. He said polling began normally barring minor incidents of EVM snags.

Out of 412 candidates in the fray, 24 are women, while 388 are men. There are a total of 55,92,828 electorates — 28,54,945 are male, 27,37,845 female and 38 third gender voters.

There are 1,93,106 new voters in the age group of 18-19 years have been added. There were 1,21,409 voters above 80 years, while 56,501 were in PwD category.

Garg said the ECI has declared 981 polling stations critical that are being manned by three layers of security including Central Paramilitary Forces, local police and home guard jawans; beside there are 901 declared vulnerable, while 6,599 are ordinary.

There are CCTV camera at all vulnerable booths.

There are 142 women polling booths where only women police personnel and poll officials are deployed for duty, as per the poll panel.

There are 232 Flying Squad new Static Surveillance teams formed in the state. There are 108 barriers and entry points along the border with neighboring states where CCTVs have been installed and sealed off and police force deployed so no interstate movement can go undetected.

There 67 companies of Central Armed Police Forces , State Armed Police Forces have been deployed to conduct peaceful elections in the state.

Apart from this, 11,847 police personnel of the State Police have also been deployed for election duty. There are 8,381 Home Guard volunteers on election-related duties. Of them, 4,500 are from Himachal Pradesh while 2,500 are from Uttarakhand State and 1,381 are from Uttar Pradesh.

The Bharatiya Janata Party and Congress are contesting on all the 68 assembly constituencies, while the Aam Aadmi Party on 67 ACs, the Bahujan Samajwadi Party on 53, Rashtriya Devbhoomi Party on 29, Communist Party of India(Marxist) 11, Himachal Jan Kranti Party on six, Hindu Samaj Party and Swabhiman Party 3-3 and one each from Himachal Janata Party, Bhartiya Veer Dal, Sainik Samaj Party ,Rashtriya Lok Niti Party and Communist Party of India. The number of independent candidates are 99.

The maximum number of 11 candidates in fray are from Jogindernagar assembly constituency, while the minimum number of three candidates each were in Churah assembly constituency of Chamba district, Lahaul-Spiti AC and Drang assembly constituency of Mandi district.

The youngest candidate is Piyush Kanga (26) contesting from Bilaspur assembly constituency as an Independent. The others are Congress’ Chaitanya (28) from Gagret, and Vikramaditya Singh (33) from Shimla Rural.

AAP’s Jabna (29) from Nachan, Manisha (30) from Nurpur; Himachal Jan Kranti Party’s Pooja (29) from Bharmour; Kishori Lal (31) of CPI (M) from Karsog and BJP’s Deep Raj (34) from Karsog assembly constituency.

Among the elder candidates, there are Congress’ Col. Dhani Ram Shandil (82) from Solan AC, Chandra Kumar (78) from Jawali, Kaul Singh Thakur (76) from Drang, Thakur Singh Bharmouri (75) from Bharmour and Kishori Lal (75) from Baijnath. Besides, Independent candidate Gangu Ram Musafir (77) from Pachhad Assembly Constituency.

Polling will end at 5 pm.